ROMAN HISTORY (180 AD)
The History of the Brunswick Square area can be traced back to Roman times when Gloucester (Glevum) was a high status Roman city. Then, the general area on which Brunswick Square now stands, was known as ‘Gaudy Green’, from the Latin “Gaudium” to enjoy. Being outside the City Walls, the area was used for relaxation and pleasure. Recent archaeological excavations on the northern side of the Square, adjacent to the recent Chillingworth Mews development, have unearthed a Roman graveyard which would likely have extended into Brunswick Square. Albion Street which adjoins Brunswick Square may also have Roman origins (Albion is the old Roman word for England) and links Brunswick Square to the historic, freshwater docks of Gloucester.
ELIZABETHAN ERA (1558-1603)
During this formative period of English history, Gaudy Green was home to the City’s stocks.
It still remained a leisure quarter. It was also where archery was practised.
In 1586 Elizabeth I awarded the City the status of port.
ENGLISH CIVIL WAR (1642-1649)
Gaudy Green played a key role in changing the course of English History. In 1643, the King’s troops, led by Prince Rupert, established a battery on the site of Gaudy Green and army camp. Gloucester was a Parliamentarian City and occupied a key position at the principal river crossing into Wales. Strategically, the Royalists had to break down the Parliamentarian support and control in Gloucester thus the City came under siege.
Thereby, both residents and the Parliamentarian army were laid up for many weeks within the city walls.
They had little food and water.
From Gaudy Green, the Royalists attempted to dig tunnels leading from Gaudy Green, and under the City
walls, where Parliament Street is today. The King was thus able to send in spies and infiltrate the rebel
city – led by Prince Rupert, who established and army camp and a cannon battery on the site of Gaudy Green. There were 3 huge cannons on Gaudy Green, which fired at the South Gate of the City Walls. However, the Siege held, thus changing the course of British history.
THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION (1760-1850)
(The Founding of Brunswick Square))
In the mid 1700’s Gaudy Green was a red light area due to its proximity to Gloucester Docks. Gaudy Green was then in the parish of Littleworth so named as it was the poorest region in the City. It was so poor that the parish could not afford to pay its Poor Law Taxes. Thus, the poor were refused admission even into the workhouses. They were left to starve and die on the streets. The local population was disease ridden. Houses were slums, with no sanitation. With the onset of the Industrial Revolution the area’s fortunes changed.
Gloucester Docks with the new navigable link via the Gloucester to Sharpness canal with the Severn Estuary and the open seas beyond, suddenly became strategically vital for shipping traffic, carrying coal, flour, and wool from around the world. With it came “new money” people and a new breed of business entrepreneur. The area of Gaudy Green, which at that time belonged to the estate of the Duke of Norfolk, was sold off to private individuals. The slums were cleared away and new ‘gentleman’s’ houses were built. By the early 1820’s Gaudy Green had become Brunswick Square, named after Caroline of Brunswick, the wife of George 1V (1762-1830).
The Square was so named after Queen Caroline of Brunswick (a former Duchy in northern Germany) who became the wife of King George (lV) of England. Caroline was reported to be a short, fat and unattractive woman with a reputation for poor personal hygiene and an attraction to other men.
George, a formidable womaniser, also extremely overweight indulged in excesses of all kinds reputably running up huge debts. The couple lived most of their time apart although did have a child, an heir, Charlotte.
Caroline died 19 days after the Coronation of the king, on 18 May 1821.
It is curious how someone with so few apparent endearing qualities should be honoured by showing respect to her memory in naming Brunswick Square after her.
The late 1700’s saw the advent of Gloucester as a spa town producing quality spa water – better quality than that found at Cheltenham or even Bath. The founding of the Spa (Spa Road) led to the development of large, gentlemen’s houses all around the new fashionable areas of Brunswick Square, Spa Road, and Montpellier.
The majority of the property owners were business people, with business links in the prosperous docks and City commerce. These included mill owners, barge owners, metal and other merchants, clergy, importers and exporters and these property owners were rich.
In 1822 the construction of “The Spa Church” began, funded by subscriptions from residents occupying houses in the Gloucester Spa Development, which included Brunswick Square. The Church was consecrated in 1823 by the Bishop of Gloucester. It cost the then enormous sum of £4,000. Today Christ Church, as it is now known, still plays an important role in the community and it is the only proprietary Church in the City – although now of course, it is run by the Diocese.
By 1825, the new property owners of Brunswick Square, many of whom held title to an assortment of parcels of land within the central area, had decided to turn this patchwork quilt of gardens into a single, splendid, formal park and gardens. The area would be bounded by railings and maintained for the exclusive benefit and enjoyment of those owners and nearby residents. A team of Gardeners was employed and a collection of rich and exotic shrubs and trees were planted and the central lawn was laid out.
Many of the mature trees and shrubs, which we see today can be attributed to the efforts of these unknown gardeners.
To achieve this common agreement, on 15th April 1825, residents drew up a Deed of Covenant, stating that nothing could ever be built on this land. The managing group formed to administer the maintenance of the Square Gardens, continues to this day. The Brunswick Square Central Lawn Association has a long heritage to be proud of and responsibility to future generations to continue this duty.
The First and Second World Wars had a devastating affect on Brunswick Square.
The men-folk went off to war, many never came back. The wealthy residents became fewer as the depression years set in between and after the war periods. The rich folk were suddenly gone.
The 1950’s saw a rapid decline in the state of these once exotic and lush gardens. Plants began to die and the plush lawns began to look like a meadow.
The metal railings had been removed in 1942 to support the war effort.
In the 1960’s the area had become ‘bed-sit’ land and was completely run down. The City Council at this time wanted to turn the Square into a public car park. However, the Square was saved by its Protective Deed of Covenant and the City Council left the Square – albeit run down, intact. Throughout the 70’s and 80’s and until the early 90’s, the Square gardens went though difficult times. There was no money and the mainly transient residents had little interest towards the maintenance of the gardens, with the majority of the property owners being absentee landlords. The Square gardens remained unkempt and badly managed until the mid 1990’s.
From 1995 onwards the Square has enjoyed a “revival”.
Bolstered by a strong and thriving community, the residents and businesses pooled their resources to
“Save the Square”.
A programme of improvements was begun and in 2000 the gardens were fully restored to their former glory
of 1825, thanks to a £25,000 grant from Gloucestershire Environmental Trust and Cory Environmental.
The project is still going on.
However it costs a lot of money to ensure the gardens are well cared for.
The gardens are still run by the Brunswick Square Central Lawn Association, which represents the residents and businesses in the Square, backed by the support of over 60 individual Subscribers and Friends. The Association seeks to ensure there will always be funds available so that the gardens can be well maintained.
Most outsiders believe these gardens are owned and managed by the City Council.
They are managed by the Community alone who tirelessly raise funds so that everyone can continue to enjoy these historic gardens – which have been enjoyed by so many since Roman times.
ROYAL VISITS TO BRUNSWICK SQUARE
23rd June 1909 – Edward V11. There were believed to be 10,000 school children in the Square to meet him.
1930’ s Princess Mary visited the YMCA in Brunswick Square, (18 Brunswick Square)